Following several months of disappointing retail sales, and two months of missed expectations, October finally saw the best beat in headline expectations since April, with retail sales rising 0.4% vs 0.1% expected. However, as has been the case in all of 2013, the bulk of this beat was driven by car sales, which rose by 1.3%, leaving sales ex autos beating by the tiniest of fractions at 0.2% vs 0.1% expected, and ex autos and gas +0.3%, vs 0.2% expected. Looking at the components, following month after month of clothing store sales misses, this category finally posted a modest 1.4% rebound, together with an increase in Electronic and Sporting goods sales, amounting to 1.4% and 1.6%, respecitvely. This was offset by the traditionally strong Building materials sales which declined by 1.9% in October.
After the DJIA and S&P briefly crossed the key resistance levels of 16000 and 1800, the upper bound on the markets has been looking increasingly more distant and this morning's lack of an overnight ramp only makes it more so. Perhaps the biggest concern, however, is that with both Yellen and Bernanke on the tape yesterday, the S&P still was unable to close green. This follows on Monday's double POMO day when the S&P once again closed... red. Not helping things was the overnight announcement by the Japanese government pension fund, the GPIF, in which the fund announced it would lower its bond allocation further however the new law to reform the GPIF could be written by spring 2015. This was hardly as exciting as the market had expected, and as a result both the USDJPY and the ES-moving EURJPY find themselves at overnight lows. Will the EURJPY engage in its usual post 8 am ramp - keep a close eye, especially since the usual morning gold and silver slam down just took place.
The big news that has somehow shocked the media is that the BLS was caught fudging the jobs numbers going into the 2012 election. How on earth is this news? Anyone with a working frontal cortex is aware that CPI, the unemployment numbers, GDP and virtually everything else reported by the Federal Government is massaged to the point of being fraudulent.
It is time for the centrally-planned markets to "try" for the round number trifecta of 16000, 1800 and 4000 again, although it may be a tad more difficult on a day in which there is no double POMO and just $2.75-$3.50 billion will be injected by the NY Fed into the S&P - perhaps it is Bitcoin that will hit the nice round number of $1000 first? Overnight, the Chinese Plenum news rerun finally was priced in and the SHComp closed red, as did the Nikkei 225 as the Asian euphoria based on communist promises about what may happen by 2020 fades. What's worse, the Chinese 7-day repo rate is up 140bp this morning to 6.63% amid talk of tightening domestic liquidity conditions, and back to levels seen during the June liquidity squeeze. All this is happening as China continues leaking more details and hope of what reform the mercantilist country can achieve, and how much internal consumption the export-driven country can attain: overnight there were also additional reports of interest rate liberalization and that the PBOC are to set up a floating CNY rate. Good luck with that.
The only numbers that matter today are 16000, 4000 and 1800: those are the Fed's closing targets for the Dow Jones, the Nasdaq and the S&P. Following last night's Chinese euphoria which saw the Shanghai Composite surge by 2.87%, or up 61.4 to just under 2,200 on renewed hopes for Chinese reform by 2020, the Fed's price targets should all be quite easily achievable. And not even the rising home prices in 69 out of 70 cities year over year, and 65 over month - the same as last month, with new nome price inflation at 0.6% overall and 0.8% for the first tier cities, was able to put a dent in the reflationary spirits in the Mainland. Additionally, news that China would join the US and Europe in "adjusting" its GDP calculation method, which would add R&D expensing into the bottom line, and as a result boost the overall number, is, well, helping things. Finally, with today's POMO a rather whopping $3-$4 billion, it is only a matter of time before all three of the previously noted psychological resistances are promptly taken out by the Fed's open markets desk.
Dispassionate discussion of the investment climate.
Would printing the cash to fund pensions for low-income retirees trigger inflation? It's more of an open question than we might imagine at first glance.
The overnight global scramble to buy stocks, any stocks, anywhere, continued, with the Nikkei soaring higher by 2% as the USDJPY rose firmly over 100, to levels not seen since May as the previously reported speculation that more QE from the BOJ is just around the corner takes a firm hold. Sentiment that the liquidity bonanza would accelerate around the world (with possibly more QE from the ECB) was undented by news of a surge in Chinese short-term money market rates or the Moody's one-notch downgrade of four TBTF banks on Federal support review. The release of more market-friendly promises from China only added fuel to the fire and as a result S&P futures are now just shy of 1800, a level which will almost certainly be taken out today as the multiple expansion ramp continues unabated. At this point absolutely nobody is even remotely considering standing in front of the centrally-planned liquidity juggernaut that has made "market" down days a thing of the past.
How is inflation of 2% acceptable? Why is this base assumption never challenged? At this rate, in 10 years you’ve lost roughly 20% of your purchasing power. And during the average worker’s lifetime, they will see a 40-60% decrease in purchasing power.
On December 23, 2013, the U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) will celebrate its 100th birthday, so we thought it was time to take a look at the Fed’s real accomplishment, and the practices and policies it has employed during this time to rob the public of its wealth. The criticism is directed not only at the world’s most powerful central bank - the Fed - but also at the concept of central banks in general, because they are the antithesis of fiscal responsibility and financial constraint as represented by gold and a gold standard. The Fed was sold to the public in much the same way as the Patriot Act was sold after 9/11 - as a sacrifice of personal freedom for the promise of greater government protection. Instead of providing protection, the Fed has robbed the public through the hidden tax of inflation brought about by currency devaluation.
Hunting season is off to a good start this week, and I’m not just talking about deer hunting. It seems that former Fed officials declared open season on their ex-colleagues. First, Andrew Huszar, who once ran the Fed’s mortgage buying operation, let loose in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Huszar apologized to all Americans for his role in the toxic QE programs. And then today, the WSJ struck again, this time with an op-ed by former FOMC Governor Kevin Warsh. Warsh is a former Morgan Stanley investment banker whose 2006 to 2011 stint on the FOMC spanned the end of the housing boom and the first few years of “unconventional” policy measures. After such a solid grounding in the ways of the Fed and Wall Street, he recently morphed into a critic of the status quo. His criticisms are welcome and we believe accurate, but they’re also oh so carefully expressed. They’re written with the polite wording and between-the-lines meanings that you might expect from such an establishment figure. He seems to be holding back. So, what does he really want to say?
As DB notes, it appears that markets continue to steadily price in a greater probability of a December taper judging by the 2bp increase in 10yr UST yields, 1.2% drop in the gold price and an edging up in the USD crosses yesterday. Indeed, the Atlanta Fed’s Lockhart, who is considered a bellwether within the Fed, kept the possibility of a December tapering open in public comments yesterday. But his other comments were quite dovish, particularly when he said that he wants to see inflation accelerate toward 2% before reducing asset purchases to give him confidence that the US economy was not dealing with a “downside scenario”. Lockhart stressed that any decision by the Fed on QE would be data dependent - so his comments that the government shutdown will make coming data "less reliable" than might otherwise have been, until at least December, were also quite telling. The dovish sentiments were echoed by Kocherlakota, a FOMC voter next year. In other words, an Oscar-worthy good-cop/bad-cop performance by the Fed's henchmen, confusing algotrons for the second day in a row.
With Ben Bernanke's tenure closing, many financial TV pundits delight in touting the stellar performance of Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman with just a couple months left in his term. Before the re-writers of history begin spinning performance, we thought why not compare Mr. Bernanke against all the other Federal Reserve Chairman to determine which Chairman deserves recognition. Bernanke's overall score across all factors was the lowest (let the spin begin counterfactualists). The data suggests that Mr. Bernanke ranks last in performance between the two mandates since 1948. Quite an accomplishment considering what events transpired during the last 60+ years; Korea & Vietnam, Oil Shock, high interest rates, etc...
If you have not already, it is time to modify your UST trading strategy to adapt to current market conditions. Buyer beware...
Following a brief hiatus for the Veterans Day holiday, the spotlight will again shine on treasuries and emerging markets today. The theme of higher US yields and USD strength continue to play out in Asian trading. 10yr UST yields are drifting upwards, adding 3bp to take the 10yr treasury yield to 2.78% in Japanese trading: a near-two month high and just 22 bps away from that critical 3% barrier that crippled the Fed's tapering ambitions last time. Recall that 10yr yields added +15bp in its last US trading session on Friday, which was its weakest one day performance in yield terms since July. USD strength is the other theme in Asian trading this morning, which is driving USDJPY (+0.4%) higher, together with EM crosses including the USDIDR (+0.6%) and USDINR (+0.6%). EURUSD is a touch weaker following a headline by Dow Jones this morning that the Draghi is concerned about the possibility of deflation in the euro zone although he will dispute that publicly, citing Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung who source an unnamed ECB insider. The headline follows a number of similar stories in the FT and Bloomberg in recent days suggesting a split in the ECB’s governing council.